Blood Sugar Control During the Whirlwind of Holiday Traditions

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All of us can attest to struggles with adhering to diet and fitness goals during the holiday season. Those tempting savory and sweet foods just need to be sampled. Let’s also not forget about Grandma’s stuffing! Who could resist?

D iabetics have an even tougher time with this control. Even with treatments and medications, overindulgence may push diabetic people over the edge in a life-threatening way. Often, people with diabetes feel restricted in what they can eat on a daily basis, but these feelings intensify during the holiday season when festivities come up and those rich, sweet and savory foods are everywhere.
The good news is that partaking in festivities is NOT out of the question. In recognition of National Diabetes Awareness this month, here are easy hacks that that can help with blood glucose control while allowing you to enjoy all the wonderful flavors of the holiday season!

Holiday-Proof Your Plan!
At family gatherings, you may not always have a say in what foods are prepared. Your best course of action is meeting those challenges with a set plan.

Eat close to your usual times to keep your blood sugar steady. If your meal is served later than normal, eat a small snack at your usual mealtime. Don’t skip meals to save up for a feast. It will be harder to keep your blood sugar in control, and you’ll be really hungry and more likely to overeat.

Is the party at a house? Offer to bring a healthy dish along that complements the meal.

Eat slowly. It takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to realize you’re full!

Avoid or limit alcohol. If you do have an alcoholic drink, have it with food. Alcohol can lower blood sugar and interact with many diabetes medications.

Decide ahead of time what and how much you will eat and how you will handle social pressure; practice saying “No thank you” or “I’m too full.”

Search for healthier versions of recipes. Most traditional holiday recipes can be made healthier with simple substitutions. For example, instead of rice or mashed potatoes, substitute cauliflower; use Greek yogurt instead of high-fat sour cream.

Plan to stay on top of your blood sugar. Check it more often during the holidays, and if you take medicine, ask your doctor if the amount needs to be adjusted.

Keep Moving!
Don’t take a holiday from physical activity. Being active is your secret weapon for better blood glucose control. A regular exercise program can improve blood sugars, decrease the risk of heart disease, and help you lose weight. It can also help make up for eating more than usual and reduce stress during this most stressful time of year.

Although many holiday traditions revolve around meal time, consider new traditions that add more physical activity. Perhaps play a game of tag or hide and seek outside. You can go on a family walk after your meal. If you have limited time during the holiday season, try doing two 15-minute workouts or three 10-minute stints.

Fitting in Sweets
Holidays and other special occasions can be tough when it comes to desserts. Most sweets have a lot of calories and carbohydrate in a small portion.

If you plan to have desserts, cut back on other carbs such as potatoes and bread during the meal. Share one portion of a dessert with someone else and scrape off any high-calorie whipped-cream topping or extra frosting.

If You Are on Insulin
If you are insulin-dependent, you just need a solid game plan and you’ll be able to get through the festivities without wreaking havoc on your diabetes management. Try this easy-to-follow plan for success.

Know your carb ratios, which is how much insulin to take per grams of carbs. If you don’t know this ratio yet, speak with your physician or diabetes educator.
• Know what you are eating. Bring a carb-counting cheat sheet.
• Work out in the morning.
• Test and keep track of active insulin so you don’t overdose.

If you slip up on your holiday game plan, just get right back to healthy eating with your next meal. Despite the rush of the season and tempting goodies around every corner, it is possible to enjoy the holidays. Just make a plan, try to stay on track, and have fun! ■

Sources:, and


Let the Plate Be Your Guide
An easy strategy for portion control is to think of your plate being cut into three sections.
• Protein, such as meat, chicken, fish, cheese or tofu, should take up one-fourth of your plate.
• Carbohydrates, which are bread, rice, pasta and starchy vegetables such as potatoes and corn, should occupy another one-fourth of your plate.
• Non-starchy vegetables, such as salads, broccoli, green beans, carrots and cauliflower, should fill the remaining half of your plate.
Remember, make mindful choices when preparing your plate.